By Adelaide Ness, Executive Vice President, The Rainmaker Companies, and 2015 BTC Summit Keynote speaker.
Originally published in Leading Edge Magazine Fall 2014 (http://leadingedgemag.com/lea-editions/lea-fall-14/?/lea-fall-14/culture-its-not-a-destination/)
If you browse business websites, blogs or journals, you’ll find article upon article about culture. If you meander through LinkedIn, the Twittersphere or Facebook, there, too, you will find a constant buzz about “culture.”
It’s the topic de jour, the buzzword of 2014. Articles lure us in with headlines like “4 components of a great corporate culture” and “How the right culture can guarantee success.” They speak of key components necessary to achieve a great corporate culture, and roadmaps to success. They dazzle us with thoughts of how great our organizations can be and give us tidbits and pointers for how to build that great culture.
Today I’m going to debunk everything that these business experts are trying to tell you. Culture is not a destination. Culture is the here and the now. You already have a culture.
Whether it’s a good one, or a bad one, you most certainly have one. Culture is defined as a way of thinking, behaving or acting that exists in an organization, so the things that are happening right now, this moment, this very second in your office are actually your culture.
You probably have a mission statement, a vision statement or core values written somewhere on your website, right? And probably another copy framed in your conference room. Let me guess, it says something like this: Our mission is to exceed the expectations of our customers through relationships fostered with honesty, integrity and respect.
Perhaps you have a sentence or two that relates directly to your industry or focus, but I’m willing to bet that I’m pretty close. Business owners often feel that they have a handle on their culture if they’ve taken the time to write down a mission statement or some core values. But the problem with these sorts of statements is that they’re only cultural if they’re true. You’ve got to walk the walk.
If your employees are constantly bickering, or your departments don’t communicate well with each other, or your leadership is absent, that’s your culture. You might say the right things to your external clients, and you may even treat them with honesty, integrity and respect, but until you get a handle on your internal clients, you cannot have great culture.
Think of the most visible, excellent brands in our world today. Disney, Starbucks, even McDonald’s have a constant emphasis on internal training and teamwork, which directly reflects to their external clients. The organizations that focus from the inside out are the organizations with an excellent culture.
What does great culture look like? Great culture occurs in organizations where the internal clients are treated as the No. 1 client, where communication is fluid and constant between leadership, staff and customer, where expectations are known and where positive behavior is recognized and rewarded. Great culture is when the mission, vision and values are not only true, they are demonstrated on a daily basis from everyone in the organization.
We have to practice what we preach. Until then, we are just mediocre organizations with a mission statement and bad culture.